Monday, 29 February 2016

Cardinal Pell: a plea in mitigation

Two questions keep being posed as Cardinal Pell gives his evidence to the Child Abuse Royal Commission: why were allegations of abuse not reported to police? And why was the church so anxious to avoid scandal that it exposed its most vulnerable members to harm?  I think it can be argued that the actions (and failures to act) of His Eminence and others were in part motivated by a desire to protect both the church and its members.

It wasn't so long ago that Australian Catholics were openly viewed with contempt.  For one thing, their loyalty was assumed to be suspect.  In 1950, the High Court of Australia heard a case attempting to disqualify a political candidate on the basis that he "was, at the time of his nomination and election, a professed member of the Roman Catholic Church.  As such he, as in the case of all members of that Church in all Countries, is under 'acknowledgement of Adherence, Obedience or Allegiance to a Foreign Power' - the papal State [and he] is therefore incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a Member of the House of Representatives": Crittenden v Anderson (1950) 51 ALJ 171.

Astonishingly, these views remain current in 2016.  Supporters of the 'Australian Christians' political party openly claim that "it's the Jesuits who formed the illuminati, and are the shadowy figures behind domination of the world for the Papacy" and that
it will be the same governing roman empire in the form of the vatican n pope that will bring a one world government who will unite nations to rise against Israel.
This sort of bigotry was unremarkable enough to form the basis of litigation in 1950.  It remains a meaningful stratum of belief 66 years later.  Is it hard to understand why even recently the Church adopted a fortress mentality: why expose priests to the sort of hostility that even today leads people to say "catholics molest our kids around the world every day and are allowed to do it, catholic churches shud be burnt down"?  Why leave the lay faithful open to the accusation of being their aiders and abettors (From the same place: "Amen to all the catholic child malesting supporters, goes to show how many people would actually give up their kids to a priest"

Any excuse that sounds like "now look what you made me do!" is based on a big hunk of self-indulgence.  But at the heart of this scandal lay a genuine tragedy.  The church's decisions were wrong, but the culture it contended with was far from right.

Coxswains Course: Days 3 and 4

Hi everyone,
After the trip up on Friday night, I slept really well, and woke up on Saturday bright and early and in the mood for a run.  I went a total of about 8 kilometres in 45 minutes, first through Swan Hill itself and then doubling back along the railway line and then along the river trail.  It was a beautiful cool morning and perfect for my first run in (sigh) about 2 weeks.

We had a hot breakfast before getting underway, kicking off with hazardous launch practice into the Murray a few miles downstream of the camp.  Hazardous indeed: the launch site was on the far side of a couple of sharp river levees, and I managed to scrape the back of the boat quite badly just trailering in to the waters edge.
That said, I was pretty pleased with how I handled both the vehicle, and trailer and boat over the challenging terrain.  I've said it before, but it's still true: there's nothing better than realising you just did what you'd never have been able to do a year ago.
Swan Hill has always been one of the busier centres of the river, and so there was plenty of activity on the water.  The paddlewheeler PS Pyap (built 1896) still goes up and down the river, and at one point several rescue boats found themselves darting out of its way.
PS Pyap at Pioneer Settlement
Image from here
Near to the camp (and apparently landlocked) was the even older PS Gem (built 1876), now a floating restaurant.
Image from here
The bridge had been designed to allow these boats to pass underneath it.

I found myself in the boat for the morning session with a trainer from Mansfield and a coxswain candidate from Rushworth, both of them very good fellows to work with.  We kicked off the morning with casualty- and body recovery drills in the water, and also some of the finer points of boat handling (crossing laterally using the current, for example), as well as some more basic skills (anchor handling, for example).
After lunch, it was time to kick off with the assessments for both coxswain and crewperson candidates.  Happily, for the assessments I was paired with a sensible, down to earth man from the Bendigo unit.  Our first task was to plot a course to a particular point upriver, anchor there and complete an on-water propeller change.  Setting the course and getting us there was no problem; anchoring was a skill we'd both learned, and the propeller change went smoothly (and would have been smoother) if the examiner hadn't also been firing questions at us as to correct drill for a fire on board, for man overboard and for abandoning ship)!  Once back at camp there was the theory section of the assessment to get through (long but manageable).  It felt heavenly to be able to clock off, change out of uniform and have a shower and then cross the river into New South Wales to go to dinner at the Federal Hotel in Moulamein (if you're ever there, try the monkfish on salad - beautiful salty flavour).

We had to kick off an hour earlier on Sunday morning to get through the four assessment stands that were left: body recovery, vessel recovery, marine search and support other agency (for the purposes of the exercise, transporting water to support the fire brigade).  All of them went smoothly except for transporting water, where the pump supplied was a complete b*****d to start and keep going, resulting in the task taking two hours rather than the usual one.  Still, it was a good approximation of field conditions: things don't always go to plan!

As we wrapped up for the day, there was time for group photo with the candidates, trainers and support staff.  The Service puts a huge amount of effort into these events, and its good to have everyone recognised, at least a bit.

I'm in the middle row standing, at the far left (the one in the legionnaire's cap)
By the time we finished, I think all of us were caked in sunscreen and perspiration and river water and the mud and grime of old man river.  Another shower felt heavenly, before a debrief and the long drive back to Tatura and then home.
I'm pleased to say that a message came through today that each of the Tatura candidates passed and has been signed off as a rescue coxswain.  I'm pretty pleased about this: it's another thing I'd never have believed I could do (and that the Ex would have laughed at the thought of me doing).  It's certainly a great feeling!

Friday, 26 February 2016

On the road. A lot.

Hi everyone,

I'm back in Swan Hill as I type this, ready for the second half of the coxswain's course.  It's been a big couple of days and I'm looking forward to some sleep tonight.

Wednesday evening I drove down to Melbourne, as I was booked in to attend a government lawyers seminar the next day.  I stayed at Second Oldest Sister's place that night and it was great to catch up with her and brother-in-law.

I was surprised how light traffic was the next morning - much better than I remember it being - and I was in town with a full hour to spare.  Once again, it felt strange to be back in a part of the city I'd worked in for years.

Lonsdale Street looked about how I remembered it.

I stopped for a coffee at a Hudsons about half a block from 600 Bourke Street, where I'd once worked.  I felt sad looking at that building.  It was a good job and I wish it had worked out.

Bourke Place (600 Bourke Street)

The seminar was being given by a top tier law firm on the corner of Bourke and William Streets.   Walking around their offices, with their fishbowl meeting rooms, floor to ceiling windows, and look of total professionalism, I felt a bit of a yen to return to that sort of work.  Not that I think that's a realistic goal: I don't have enough expertise outside of injury cases, and I doubt any of the injury firms working in that sphere have forgotten what I screwed up in the Before Time.

I did think that I also miss Melbourne quite a bit.  I miss the sense of possibility you get from city streets, and the way the city seems to have a kind of consciousness of its own.

The seminar itself was informative and valuable, and definitely worth the trip.  I even saw an old friend I'd worked with in the Long Ago. Wonderful to see her doing well.

I drove back up to Tatura and straightened up a few things before going down to SES early.  The Seymour Unit had invited us and a number of other units to come down to their training session on railway accidents.  We'd arranged a small bus to get all of our interested members down, and I think the total attendance was about 70 emergency responders from across the region.

Part of what we were taught covered how people can be safely evacuated from trains, and how far rail carriages can be lifted to remove a trapped person.

At the end of the evening, things got a bit more hands-on, as we had the opportunity to practice extricating a person from a car after it has been struck by a train.

The night ran incredibly smoothly, especially given the numbers involved.  Even though it was a long night, nobody I heard had a bad word to say about it.

Today was straightforward and productive at work.  This afternoon/evening I came up to Swan Hill with two other SES members for the second half of the rescue coxswains course.  I'm still feeling pretty positive about it and looking forward to the challenges the weekend will throw my way.

Definitely time to sleep now though.  I'm feeling pretty well back to normal, so hopefully I'll even be able to squeeze in a run tomorrow morning.  It's promising to be a pretty great weekend!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Coxswains Course - Days 1 and 2

Hi everyone,

Sorry it's taken me forever to get around to writing this.  I came down with a bug during the first two days of the course that gave me a savage cough and left me utterly exhausted by the end of the day when I'd usually try and write.  Anyway, I'm finally grabbing time to tell you about the first part of the course the weekend before last.

As I think I said in the prologue, on the Friday evening Madison, Justin and I drove up to Swan Hill where the course is being held.  Swan Hill is in the North West region, so this course is a combined effort of the NW and North East regions.

The day kicked off with cooked breakfast and a classroom session with Rob, who is teaching the coxswains' part of the course.  Daylight also meant a chance to get a better look at the camp, which very much had a "school camp site" look about it.

Right down to what it was built of!

By 10am we were heading out to the Lake where the weekend's activities were to occur: Lake Boga, a roughly circular freshwater lake administered by my employer.  The area was fairly indicative of where we are in the year.  The lake is at about 45% capacity at time of writing, and the town beside it looked more than a little dusty.

I found myself in a crew with a trainer from the Echuca unit and a coxswain candidate from the Swan Hill unit.  We got along well and it certainly helped me get plenty out of the day.  The Saturday was largely spent on boat-handling skills.  I was pretty pleased to find how much I'd taken in from training on the Goulburn with Anthony:  I was able to get the boat up to planing speed reasonably efficiently, and even able to hold it in place by an object against the wind and the waves quite well.
There was a night exercise on Saturday night, picking up and dropping off drums in the dark.  The task for us was to plan a route beforehand using our navigation training, travel that route in the dark, get the boat inshore with as much guidance as a spotlight could give, and then return to the starting point.  This time I was with two people from the Marong unit, one as assessor and the other as a candidate for crewperson.  I think I did pretty well: the course I'd plotted worked out and was navigable, the handling of the boat was adequate, and nobody was exposed to excessive danger.  There's something good about finding you can do OK at something you'd never have attempted a year ago!

Sunday saw us back out on the lake, this time with some more technical skills to acquire.  A particular focus was handling the boat while approaching a casualty in the water, including while recovering them in a stokes litter.  Naturally, each of us took a turn in the water as the casualty.  The boat looks big from water level!

Encouragingly, a pelican flew across the lake in the course of the day.  Regular readers will remember that I have particular reasons for viewing pelicans as a good omen, especially when connected with boats.

Image from here

It was a great weeekend on any measure (and probably well timed: Lake Boga is now under a blue-green algae warning!).  I'm certainly looking forward to this coming weekend when we complete the balance of the course on the Murray River.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A court not in Damascus

There was an interesting piece on the conservative news site, reporting a recent conference on the capacity of the International Criminal Court to deal with crimes committed in the Syrian conflict.

Image from here

The conference was fairly gloomy about the Court's power to intervene, noting
"how narrow the ICC’s jurisdiction is over such matters since the ICC can only act “if a state party refers a situation to the prosecutor, if a non-state party accepts the ICC’s jurisdiction over a situation, or if the UN Security Council refers a situation to the prosecutor,” [with one of the speakers] adding that, “neither Syria nor Iraq are state parties and neither has accepted ICC jurisdiction over the situation.”

Image from here

I find myself wondering then whether this means the court is useless, or whether it needs a wider jurisdiction.  Readers of the story leaned towards solutions based on use of force.  For example -
these are the most brutal bunch of slime since the nazis of ww2 its simple EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF isis THAT IS TAKEN ALIVE SHOULD BE HANGED UNTILL DEAD DOWN TO LAST MAN WOMEN AND CHILD
After the last few years of Syrian history, one wonders what on earth more bloodletting will achieve.  Maybe the time has come to follow Benedict XV, and accept that there are worse things than international courts.

Can Catholics and Evangelicals be friends?

There's a question I'd like to pose: can the Catholic and Evangelical faithful meet on terms of spiritual friendship?  I am tending to doubt that they can.
I've been thinking about this since reading an article on the website of the Christian News Network about the death of His Honour, Mr Justice Scalia.  With perhaps more bitterness than usual, I observed that -
What makes this amusing to a papist like me is watching "biblical Christians" fondness for Scalia override their near-pathological hatred of Roman Catholics.
Another commenter responded -
Seriously? I know lots of biblical Christians, I don't know any who have a "near-pathological hatred of Roman Catholics." It's 2016, evangelicals and RCs unite on many issues, such as being pro-life. You may encounter a few crackpots on the internet spewing their hate at Catholics, but I assure you they do not represent the main stream of evangelicalism. Chuck Colson, an evangelical, and Richard John Neuhaus, an RC priest, formed a close bond and worked to build up amity between the two groups.
I replied (fairly cynically) -
That might be so, Dan, but I'm afraid I haven't met many of them. Reading stories and comments on even more-or-less mainstream sites like this one, a Catholic will be told that they are not a Christian, that the Pope is the Antichrist (a tired allegation, having been made against every pope since Leo X), that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, that we're idolators, or closet followers of Baal, and a great deal more besides. Attempts to explain Catholic practice get the accusation of being "seducers with fine-sounding words and smiles" and "wordsmithing". You will understand why we might conclude that we're viewed as the enemy.
Thinking about it later, I went to a single story about on that same website about (as the site describes him) "Roman Catholic leader Jorge Bergoglio, also known as Pope Francis" and found the following gems -
"If [Roman Catholics] were Christians, they would heed the Scriptures that say don’t yoke together with unbelievers,”
"The Roman Catholic church is the harlot from revelations"
I have and can support sola fide and I have not lied about your falsely called holy father, your false prophet pope. Don't worry about my bearing false witness, worry that you are trying to earn your salvation, according to the false Gospel of the Roman Catholic Church"
"you have been blinded by the deceiving spirits of the Roman Catholic Church, embracing a false Gospel of salvation and thinking yourself saved"
"I am simply not interested in Catholic propaganda, as I believe it is a false Church and the seat of the False Prophet and do not want to expose myself to their deceptions that are leading souls away from Christ."
"The whole concept of the papacy is satanic and ungodly."
Raffael 042.jpg
Pope Leo X - pontiff at the commencement of the Reformation
Image from here
I thought it might be interesting to flip the table, and so I looked at the responses to stories on Catholic news sources about Pope Francis' overtures to evangelicals.  I think it's fair to say that the responses were positive, if somewhat jaded.  By way of example -
  • From here: "The January video of the pope's message regarding other religions leads me to believe that Francis is measuring religious differences with a micrometer, as he cannot see much difference."
  • From here: "The coming together of the disparate parts - Protestantism which does not recognize even priesthood and the sacrifice of the Mass, together with the true Church established by Christ may be a kind of earthly "unity" on some level, but is is not the oneness that Jesus prayed for."
  • And from here: "I welcome Pope Francis' efforts to reach out to those who follow Jesus,  whatever outward "label" they may wear.  It is to his credit that he has done so,  in my humble opinion." and "Disunity is the most serious "Communal" sin. The Christian community should not allow this sin to flourish. I am happy the versatile Pope is leading the way to Christian unity."
The credibility of the Christian message would be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions and the Church could realize “the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her”.
I wonder how this might ever occur when we start from a base of lowered expectations on one side and open hostility on the other.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Protecting Scalia's legacy

There's been a lot of talk in conservative circles lately about what might happen on the US Supreme Court in the wake of Antonin Scalia's death.  For example, will the Second Amendment decisions in DC v Heller, 554 US 570 (2008) and McDonald v Chicago, 561 US 742 (2010) now be at risk of reversal?

His Honour's hostility to considering foreign law in American constitutional cases was well known.  He said bitterly in Roper v Simmons 543 US 551 (2005) that "the basic premise of the Court’s argument–that American law should conform to the laws of the rest of the world–ought to be rejected out of hand. ".  It is ironic that the words of a foreign judge which particularly eloquently protects His Honour's legacy.

In the 1970s, the Australian government legislated to allow that country's internal territories to elect members with voting rights to its Senate.  Formerly, only senators for States had been able to vote.  The legislation was challenged by the State of Western Australia.  It was upheld by the High Court, on the basis that the development of the nation since 1900 had diluted the Constitution's original meaning (Western Australia v The Commonwealth (1975) 134 CLR 201 at 269-271 per Mason J).  A few years later, after the composition of the High Court had changed somewhat, another state sought to have the legislation declared invalid.  Gibbs J, who had voted in the earlier case to declare the law invalid, now voted to uphold it.  He still considered the earlier decision incorrect, but said that -
No Justice is entitled to ignore the decisions and reasoning of his predecessors, and to arrive at his own judgment as though the pages of the law reports were blank, or as though the authority of a decision did not survive beyond the rising of the Court. A Justice, unlike a legislator, cannot introduce a programme of reform which sets at nought decisions formerly made and principles formerly established. It is only after the most careful and respectful consideration of the earlier decision, and after giving due weight to all the circumstances, that a Justice may give effect to his own opinions in preference to an earlier decision of the Court.
... [W]hen it is asked what has occurred to justify the reconsideration of a judgment given not two years ago, the only possible answer is that one member of the Court has retired, and another has succeeded him. ... Moreover, the decision has been acted on; senators for the Territories have been elected under the legislation there held valid. To reverse the decision now would be to defeat the expectations of the people of the Territories that they would be represented, as many of them believed that they ought to be represented, by senators entitled to vote - expectations and beliefs that were no less understandable because in my view they were constitutionally erroneous, and that were encouraged by the decision of this Court.
... Having considered all the circumstances that I have mentioned I have reached the conclusion that it is my duty to follow Western Australia v The Commonwealth, although in my view it was wrongly decided.
Queensland v The Commonwealth (1977) 139 CLR 585 at 599-600.

Scalia J's successor will have big shoes to fill.  They could do worse than to bear in mind the restraint and judicial professionalism of Gibbs J.

Angry with a storm

The news the other day reported that Joyce Garrard had died.  Readers outside of Alabama may not have heard of this person.  She was serving life imprisonment for causing the death of her granddaughter.  The child had lied about stealing sweets, and been made to run until she collapsed, suffering fatal health effects.

This case has stuck in my memory.  I'm a keen runner and it galls me to see the sport I love used in this way.  On the other hand, the case seems to be tragic, in the classical sense of people being destroyed by choices they did not fully understand.  Garrard had been raised in an utterly brutal manner.  It was reported that
Garrard ... grew up in a home where both her father and maternal grandmother were alcoholics and conditions were worse than "a third-world country."
[Her] family home growing up had no running water, little heat in winter, and very little provision for the children, who were left unsupervised. The family witnessed her mother stabbing her father in the neck, and the grandmother forced the children to fight each other "for her pleasure".
Children sometimes wore extra clothes to be prepared for the abuse they expected.
I'm no bleeding heart liberal.  I have no concerns with the punishment this woman received.  But I also recall the Jesuits' saying: "give me the child when he is seven and I will show you the man".  This woman clearly learned the lessons of her childhood.  She needed to be punished, but the punishment seems as futile as being angry with a storm or an earthquake.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Coxswains Course - Prologue

Hi everyone,

It's been a while since I've written a 'what I'm doing' post.  This one, though, merits it for sure.

I'm typing this on my phone at Swan Hill, where SES is holding its coxswains training course.  Madison, Justin and I are here from the Tatura unit, as are a number of people from the North East and North West regions.  We've been doing some pre-course training on the Goulburn with Anthony, who already has his coxswain's ticket, and after an evening brushing up on navigation I think we're feeling positive about it.

It was a longish drive up here from Tatura - about three hours, and we talked much of the way.  Stopped for dinner in Echuca (McDonalds for them, Subway for me).

The accomodation is fairly basic but clean; I think the place spends a lot of its time being a school camp.  I'm good with that: I've definitely slept in rougher than this!

I'm really looking forward to how this weekend unfolds!

Monday, 8 February 2016

A war like no other?

I've posted here previously about responding to a "dirty bomb".  The sources that I looked at for that piece were fairly low-key about the health risks posed by such a bomb, viewing it more as a "weapon of mass disruption" than a major health hazard.  This is no doubt correct, although a recent news story has suggested that in the right circumstances, a dirty bomb could pose a significant health hazard.  Professor Tom Cawthern of Salisbury University was quoted as saying that -
[Radioactive material left over from chemotherapy treatments, science experiments and construction] ... could be stuffed into a pipe bomb and detonated, sending dangerous particles into the air bomb radius and beyond.  "You would have gastrointestinal problems for sure and if it's on the skin you would end up with kind of discoloration of the skins, burns, blisters that sort of stuff," ... [and if] the radioactive material was used to contaminate a water source, such as a lake or reservoir ... people would slowly get sick, but doctors would not be able to determine the cause, resulting in likely misdiagnosis of the cause

Marxist scholar Mike Davis has described car bombs as "the poor man's air force".  He points out that they are a remarkably precise way of delivering death and destruction, and capable of causing widespread demoralization and billions of dollars in economic damage and disruption.  Moreover, defending against them is so labour intensive as to be impossible on a large scale.  Combining this type of weapon with radioactive material would be, in many ways, a more pressing threat to public welfare than the danger of North Korea developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.  If this sounds absurd, try and picture the Oklahoma City bombing with radioactive material thrown in.  Then have a stiff drink.
Image from here
What makes this supremely concerning is that the combined unpredicatability of carbombs mixed with the hazards of radiation renders meaningless - almost ridiculous - the advice that governments past have offered about nuclear warfare.
Perhaps I'm becoming paranoid.  But I find myself thinking that if certain commentators are correct and "the west" is now in another world war, then it is a war without much precedent in recent history: where for one side (maybe both, depending on your point of view) civilians are fair game, and where the groups of combattants at any one time are no larger than is needed for a given 'event'.  And where on one side at least, much of the work of recovery will be carried out by civilian volunteers and much of the task of attack and defence will fall to police who must act like soldiers and soldiers who must think like police.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Law and the Western Front

This is a post I wrote for another blog about a year ago.  Rereading it now, I think it's one of the best things I've ever written.  With the coming to prominence of a new crop of Presidential candidates, some of whom are being 'graded' on their approaches to international law, I felt it was timely to re-post it.


Oceans of ink and hurricanes of breath have been expended parsing the centenary of the Anzac landings in recent months.  Much of it has been platitudes about sacrifice; some of it has involved historically problematic claims of defending ‘our’ freedoms.  All of it has laboured under the ancient difficulty of extracting meaning from the terrible slaughter of the First World War.

Skeleton trench

I suggest that the reason people both at the time and now struggle to make sense of the vast human toll of the Great War is because the principle it was fought to defend seems so insubstantial.  In the end, for the British Empire at least, it was a war for the rule of law.

The United Kingdom’s stated reason for entering the war was the defence of Belgian neutrality.  In 1839 Germany signed the Treaty of London which created the Kingdom of Belgium, with that Kingdom recognised as remaining a neutral power.  It was that promise of neutrality which the German Empire intended to violate by executing the Schlieffen Plan in order to inflict a rapid defeat on France.

Treaties – promises between nations – are a form of law: ultimately they are a promise by a sovereign to behave in a particular way, in the same way that an Act of Parliament is a promise that some behaviour (like murder) will not be countenanced.  By making war on Belgium, the German Empire repudiated its sovereign promise.  Britain’s acceptance of this as a cause for war declared that it was willing to shed blood to maintain the rule of international law.  Its willingness to endure horrendous bloodshed in this cause was a firm demonstration that the rule would not be violated with impunity (1).

I think that the reason the sacrifice of the Great War seems meaningless today is that the principle that sovereignty is not unlimited is now taken for granted: the sovereign power of making war (or of “making die”) (2) that President Hussein sought to exercise with the annexation of Kuwait in 1990 prompted Security Council resolution 678 and ultimately resulted in the Persian Gulf War.  At present a long-running dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica over the location of their border has lead not to a call to arms or a gallant defence of the Fatherland, but to proceedings in the International Court of Justice.

It is for this reason that I find the hostility to international courts of William Safire (3) and Ted Cruz (4) to be somewhat concerning.  These courts are a sign that law is accepted to exist at an international level, and that state sovereignty ought conform itself to it – precisely the principle for which the British Empire went to war.  Courts like the International Court of Justice – slow, procedure-heavy, grindingly technical, unexciting – are the lasting monument to the courage and suffering of the British- and Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces.  I can think of few greater gifts to the people of the world.


(1) An interesting ‘what if’ is whether Britain would still have entered the war against Germany. Personally I think it would: the potential gains in the form of not allowing a single power to dominate Europe, and the promise of territorial gains for New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, would ultimately have been too great a temptation for the Empire to remain aloof.

(2) Sophie Wahnich, In Defence of the Terror (trans. D. Fernbach) (2012), at 58-59.

(3) William Safire, ‘The Purloined Treaty’, New York Times (9 April 2001) at np.

(4) Ted Cruz, ‘SCOTUS rejects authority of World Court’, Human Events (1 April 2008) at 1.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The best we can be

There was an interesting letter in the North West Florida Daily News recently, from a Mr Sam Patti who said that -
America needs in the coming election a strong, righteous conservative, Ted Cruz, who means what he says and does what he says.
He will put our country back in the right direction.
I felt that he  may be mistaken, and suggested that an area of concern is Senator Cruz's well-known hostility to the International Court of Justice, despite the use of court processes to resolve international tensions having strong Christian support. In 1917, Pope Benedict XV said
in place of armies there should be substituted arbitration, with its peacemaking function, with norms of agreement and sanctions to be imposed upon states which refuse to submit international questions to arbitration or to accept their adjudication (translation mine).
Benedict himself warned that scorn for the pride and interests of other nations was not free of hazards: "remember that Nations do not die ; humbled and oppressed, they chafe under the yoke imposed upon them, preparing a renewal of the combat, and passing down from generation to generation a mournful heritage of hatred and revenge". Mexico's subsequent treatment of American nationals may well have been a response to the humiliation handed to it in the Avena and Medellin cases.

Crest of Pope Benedict XV
Image from here

Have we conservatives lost part of our sense of what makes us most human?  It was never the case that our side considered its actions should be curbed only by the physical limits on its power.  In a 1943 letter to President Roosevelt, Pope Pius XII - hardly a liberal - condemned even warfare which did not accept limits.  He offered a prayer that "everywhere, as far as humanly possible, the civil populations be spared the horrors of war; that the homes of God’s poor be not laid in ashes; that the little ones and youth, a nation’s hope, be preserved from all harm".  Now?  I find myself doubting that even the mild statement from the United Nation's Security Council that it -
Reiterates that the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons fuel conflict and have devastating impact on the protection of civilians, reiterates its demand that all parties to armed conflict comply strictly with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international refugee law, and stresses the need for parties to take all required measures to avoid civilian casualties, respect and protect the civilian population.
- would receive significant support from the National Rifle Association (of which, nevertheless, I remain proudly a member).

Recently, I've spent a certain amount of time looking at posters from the Second World War and the Cold War.  If they have a constant theme in them, it's that the thing that will bring a better world into being will involve making common cause with people who are not like us.
Image from here

It'll involve taking on added burdens beyond those of daily life.

Image from here.
It'll involve giving up our own plans.

Image from here

The worst fault of our left-liberal friends is that too-often they require other people to bear the burden of improving the world (one may condense their slogans to "tax the rich" and "let the Iraqi people endure President Hussein because it's not our war").  The worst fault of conservatives is a refusal to bear the hardest of burdens: the one that makes us give up our pride.

Conservatives should call on Senator Cruz - and every other candidate - to adopt as a starting point that every person affected by his decisions be treated so as to honour the image of God stamped on them.  With some people - illegal immigrants for example - "it might not be as good as we’ll ever feel, but it’s probably as good as we’ll ever be".